BATTERIES & YOUR CHARGING SYSTEM

Here’s an interesting statistic for our friends in San Diego: Only thirty percent of car batteries make it to forty-eight months. And the life expectancy varies by where you live. It ranges from fifty-one months in extremely cold areas to just thirty months in extremely hot climates. Why is that? It turns out that it’s our modern cars with all their electric accessories that are to blame. Things like, GPS, DVDs, and entertainment computers are keeping car batteries from maintaining a full charge. The longer a battery goes with a low charge, the sooner it’ll die.

Keeping the battery charged is the job of the alternator. The problem comes when the car’s demand for electricity is high and we are driving in stop and go conditions like Highway 15 or short trips around El Cajon or Kearny Mesa. The alternator just can’t keep up.  The result is shortened battery life.

So what can we do to improve our battery’s health?
We need to keep the battery as close to a full charge as possible.  So some highway driving between Poway or Santee will help keep a full charge if the battery has not been deeply depleted. Car batteries are not designed to be run down really low, or deep cycled, as it’s called. So using your headlights or other power accessories when the car is off can deeply deplete your battery. Using the alternator to recharge from a deeply depleted state is very hard on your battery because it charges too fast. In fact, on average, your battery would only last for ten recharges like that.

If you do find yourself with a dead battery
Whenever possible, use a good quality battery charger to slowly bring the battery up to full charge.  Follow the instructions on the charger.  Batteries contain sulfuric acid that can cause burns or blind you. Carefully inspect it before you jump start it. Make sure you do not cross the terminals – do NOT RELY on the red and black colors – only connect positive (+) to positive and negative (-) to negative.  If the battery case is bulging, cracked or leaking, do not jump start it. Although extremely rare, damaged batteries can explode or catch fire.

BRAKES

There are two types of brakes: disc and drum. Disc brakes have a rotor that’s attached to the axle. Calipers with pads straddle the rotor and close down on it, kind of like the brakes on a bicycle.

Drum brakes are common on back wheels. These are equipped with “shoes” that push out against the drum to slow the vehicle. Brake pads and shoes are made out of very tough material to withstand the heat and force generated when stopping your car. They are a tangible item that will eventually wear out with use, and need to be replaced.
Of course, if you’re having trouble with your brakes, get your car into Automotive Remedies right away. Here are some symptoms to watch for:

  • Constantly squealing or grinding brakes
  • Low or spongy brake pedal
  • Hard brake pedal
  • A brake warning light that stays on
  • Vibrations or clunking sounds when you apply your brakes

If you are experiencing any of these, it’s time to get your brakes checked.

If the brake pads wear away completely, you can damage the rotors. The calipers can grind grooves into the rotor. Then the rotor must either be resurface or replaced. That’s not only dangerous because your vehicle won’t stop as quickly, but will add to the expense of your repair. Sometimes rotors warp, crack, or can just be too thin to resurface and must be replaced.

There are different formulas of brake pads. Different compounds include semi-metalic, organic, extended wear, or ceramic.  Different grades cost more, but each vehicle was designed to give better braking performance and smoother operation with specific formulas. We recommend to always use the OE equivalent.

FLUIDS

We would like to give you an update on some of the things happening in automotive fluids. You know, cars are becoming more sophisticated everyday – and fluids such as, oil, coolant and transmission fluid are becoming more specialized at about the same pace.

The do-it-yourselfer has to be pretty careful so that they do not actually harm their vehicle with the wrong type of fluid. That is why so many CA car owners rely on the advice of their service consultant to not only get the correct family of fluids, but to suggest the formulation that is best for their car and the way they drive.

Let’s start with engine oil. If you have been paying attention, you will have noticed a number of new oil weights on the scene in the last several years. Modern engines are built to much tighter tolerances and have very complicated valve trains. The oil must be thin enough to lubricate complicated parts when the engine is cold. The weight of an oil is expressed in terms like 20-W-50 or 5-W-30. Manufacturers recommend the weight of oil for each vehicle they make. The recommendation is based on engine design. Your San Diego service center will know what weight your manufacturer recommends – and it’s important to follow those recommendations. A service adviser at Automotive Remedies can also offer suggestions for special formulations and can explain conventional and synthetic oils.

Antifreeze, or engine coolant, is another area that has become more complicated. For a long time, manufacturers only called for a couple of different types of coolant. Now there are several different formulations that are needed because of the different materials that manufacturers are using to build the cooling system. Using the wrong type of coolant can actually void your warranty, so you want to get that right.

Transmission fluid has become specialized as well. New transmission designs have particular requirements that mandate the use of specific formulations. Recently, new, somewhat confusing, standards for brake fluid have also been released.  In the case that you should need to add fluid to your vehicle, there are markings or lables clearly posted under the hood.  If ever you are not certain, please feel comfortable in calling Automotive Remedies and one of our advisors will be happy to assist you.

MAINTENANCE

New cars cost so much these days. Add financing and insurance and, well a new vehicle may not seem so attractive. A lot of San Diego people are hoping to make their cars last a lot longer.  The good news is that with the current state of automotive engineering and manufacture, there’s no reason a modern vehicle can’t be made to last for a 150,000 miles or more.

“A  stitch in time saves nine”…
…and that is really true when it comes to taking care of your car. A great example is coolant service.

Over time, coolant becomes corrosive and actually starts to damage your radiator and other parts. That’s why you need to have your cooling system serviced on a regular schedule.

The same is true for your power steering system, brake fluid, air conditioning system, differential and transmission. And your oil changes should be done right on schedule to avoid the build up of harmful oil sludge.

Don’t let your brake pads go too long before they are worn to the point that they cause damage to rotors. Preventive maintenance is a great way to keep your operating costs down.  Replaceing belts and hoses is much cheaper than repairing the damage that can be caused by failure.

Now this is a lot to remember. Automotive Remedies can help you to keep on top of this stuff. We can tell you what your manufacturer recommends and help you with a plan to take care of it.  The results will show on your bottom line – maintenance on schedule will reduce operating costs, prevent costly damage and maintain your warranty coverage.

TIMING BELT

The movement of all the internal components in your engine is finely choreographed. All the elements have to work together, and if the timing of these components is off, they can smash into each other and cause severe or catastrophic damage. One of the most intricate assemblies in your engine has to do with the combustion cycle.

Your engine has cylinders in which a piston travels up and down. At the top of the cylinders are valves open to bring in the air and fuel. And there are valves that open to let out the exhaust after the fuel has been burned.  It’s critical that the values be timed to open and close at precisely the right time in the combustion cycle, or the engine will run poorly or not at all.

The timing belt is responsible for rotating the shafts that control these valves. It’s vital and precision work. Timing belts are made of very tough flexible material. They can last a long time. But they eventually wear out and can break. Those consequences can be disastrous.

In some engines, the valves actually protrude far enough into the cylinders that they could come in contact with the piston. If the timing belt breaks, the pistons will smash into the valves. Valves get bent or broken. If the engine rpm is fast enough, the broken parts will shred the cylinder walls as well. Repairing this damage can cost several thousand dollars.

This is why manufacturers have issued recommendations for when you should replace your timing belt. For some engines, it’s as early as 60,000 miles. For others it’s at 90,000 miles or more. If you’re approaching 60,000 miles, or have passed it, make sure you check your owner’s manual or with you with Automotive Remedies for when the timing belt should be replaced.

Now, timing belts are hidden under a protective cover and are hard to get to. Some timing belts also drive the water pump. If you have a leaky water pump, the coolant will contaminate the timing belt and could make it fail sooner. So, if you have a coolant leak, get it in for an inspection right away.

Most people in the San Diego area with this type of engine design end up with a new timing belt when they replace the water pump…and, when you’re having your timing belt replaced it makes sense to install a new water pump at the same time. Even if it is not currently having problems, since most of the labor is already being paid for due to the timing belt replacement.

As a heads up; larger engines will often have metal timing chains rather than belts. The chains don’t need to be replaced like belts.

AIR CONDITIONING

Do you hear loud noises under the hood when you turn on your air conditioner? Do you only get cool air sporadically? If so, it is time to get your air conditioner inspected.  It’s real easy to take your car’s air conditioner for granted. Just push the right buttons and out comes cool, dry, clean air. But your air conditioning system needs attention from time to time to help it keep its cool.

When most people in San Diego hear the words “air conditioning problems”, it sends a shiver up their spine. That is because the air conditioning system is fairly complex. It has a lot of parts and when it’s broken, it can be expensive to repair.

What things can we do to prevent air conditioning breakdowns?
A common cause of air conditioning failure is leaks.  Refrigerant, the stuff that makes the air cold, can leak out, reducing the efficiency of the system, making it work harder to cool the air. Periodically evacuating the air conditioning system and recharging it keeps the proper amount of clean refrigerant in the system so it cools better and lasts longer.

You should also run the air conditioner regularly, even in a frosty San Diego winter, so that it lubricates itself and keeps the seals from drying out, which leads to leaks. Your owner’s manual will have recommendations for how often to service your air conditioner. Of course, if it’s currently not working properly, now is the time to get it checked. Automotive Remedies can inspect and test your air conditioning and offer evacuation and recharge services. This goes a long way to avoiding higher priced repairs, because if the refrigerant level is low or the compressor is not working, the system cannot properly lubricate the internal components.

VEHICLE WARRANTIES

If you own a California vehicle with a warranty, beware!
Many dealers and manufacturers suggest that you need to get your maintenance services at a dealership in order to keep your warranty.  That simply isn’t true!  You can have your vehicle serviced at your trusted, local service center without affecting your warranty. A federal law, called the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act, prohibits a manufacturer from voiding your warranty just because you got parts or services from a non-dealer. In fact, a manufacturer can’t require you to use their brand of oil filters, lubricant, or any other part in order to maintain your warranty protection. This protection is true for aftermarket extended warranties purchased on new or used vehicles. This protection also applies to leased vehicles. There are similar laws in Canada as well.

If a manufacturer can prove that the replacement parts or service lead to a vehicle failure, they can void a portion of the warranty. Of course, Automotive Remedies uses quality parts and fluids that meet or exceed manufacturers’ specifications.  A lot of people do not know that service centers subscribe to data services that tell them exactly which parts and fluids meet manufacturers’ specifications. These services are updated constantly so that your automotive service center always knows what you need for your car. You can be assured that your vehicle will receive high quality replacement parts that’ll keep you safely on the road.

Proper maintenance is so important to safety. It can also prevent costly repairs and save you money over the long haul. Just because you don’t have to go to a dealer to get your maintenance service performed doesn’t mean that you don’t need to have it done at all. In fact, most warranty policies require that scheduled maintenance be performed. If you miss having important work done, you may lose some warranty coverage. Refer to your owners’ manual and vehicle warranty for more details. And keep good records of the work you’ve had done.

The protection you receive under the Magnuson-Moss Warranty Act can save you hundreds of dollars each year. The average hourly labor rate for service is nearly twenty percent lower at independent service centers such as Automotive Remedies. We are conveniently located in Kearny Mesa, so why go anywhere else?

FUEL SYSTEMS

Is your car sometimes hard to start on an early San Diego morning? When you turn the key, does it hesitate or stutter? If so, the problem could be the result of a dirty fuel system. Your car’s fuel system starts with the air filter and ends in the top of your engine. Over time, different parts of the system get dirty and will rob you of your performance and reduce fuel economy.

Most of our vehicles today have fuel injectors, rather than a carburetor. Fuel injection systems have fewer problems and require less adjustment. But they still need to be properly maintained. This is why your owner’s manual has a schedule for cleaning your fuel injectors and other parts of your fuel system.

Some people are interested in buying fuel system cleaners that you can pour into your gas tank. You can do that – and there are lots of great products available that can help maintain an already clean fuel system – but these products cannot do a major cleaning. For that, you need to see your service center.  Automotive Remedies has the professional tools and chemicals to really do a complete and proper service. This will remove particles, carbon, and varnish from your fuel system and keep those injectors running cleanly and efficiently. Afterwards, many vehicle owners will actually notice more power, better fuel economy, and reduced exhaust emissions.

These services also help prevent rust and corrosion in your fuel system and lubricate vital engine parts. Fuel system cleaning is just one of those recommended service items that helps keep your vehicle running strong. As with all maintenance, it can help avoid costly repairs that often result from not taking the right preventive steps.